One of the things that surprised me the most about Israel is how people are able to live in a war zone like it’s no big deal. I’ve always thought that since they were born or lived a huge part of their existence in this reality, it no longer had any side-effects on their mentality and way of being. Well, I couldn’t be more wrong about it.
A while ago, during one of my flights, I had a conversation with a Jewish old man originally from New York and living in Israel for many years already. Of course, the first thing he asked me, actually like everybody else, was how I found Israel. Most of the times, I answer in a politically correct way, saying that I love the weather and the food, but the political situation scares me a bit. This time, I felt I could share my thoughts with him, without offending him.
The first unusual thing that popped into my mind was the aggressiveness of the people. In traffic, everybody thinks he owns the street; in the clubs, all the people push you, step on your feet and don’t apologize; at work, everybody wants you to work as much as possible, for as long as possible. In general, the Israelis want to be the first ones at everything and because they all want that at the same time, the result is chaos. I finished my confession by admitting I didn’t truly understand why they behave like this.
How would you want the Israelis to be?
The old man started smiling and looked at me in a doubtful way. “How would you want the Israelis to be? Relaxed and behaving like nothing is wrong around them?” He then reminded me of our “loving” neighbors. In the north, Lebanon and Syria, in the east, Jordan, in south-west, Egypt and Gaza Strip or in the center the occupied territories. He didn’t understand why I was surprised that people are acting like they are always surrounded by enemies.
Then he explained to me why Israelis always struggle to achieve more. “Since 1948, Israel multiplied ten times its population, built a world renowned weapon production and an American lifestyle. All this in the heart of the most dangerous place on earth, surrounded by enemies, threatened by terror and with a serious war at least once a decade. There is no other country in the world that achieved what Israel managed to do, despite its “noisy” start, despite all difficulties encountered on the way and mostly in such a rough neighborhood. The Israelis can hold their head up for this. Yet, the Israelis are not where they want to be… Because the state was created only 66 years ago, they have a long way ahead till they can rest. This explains the constant striving to do more.”
Where is the real war?
What you see as hatred of their own kind, is merely a reaction to being threatened all the time. Due to the constant danger around them, they look at everybody as enemies. If the enemy is not coming from outside, then they look at the people from the inside as potential harm source. It’s like an instinct, they can’t help it. You can see it everywhere. In politics, in media, in traffic. There are drivers who drive worse than Israelis but they aren’t meaner than here. Only here, when somebody wants to overpass you in traffic, the other will do everything in his power to stop that. In America, you just have to show a short signal with the high beam, so that the driver in front of you lets you pass. In Israel, it’s exactly the opposite. You won’t dare to overpass the other.
When do the Israelis change? During war. Because only then it is clear that the enemy comes from the outside. Then, they behave completely different. Over night, they change to the friendliest country in the world. All the people are in the favor of each other, they are kind in traffic, they smile and they help. Under fire, they are all friends. They give each other their hearts and their souls, they volunteer and they share everything they have. When is this over? 15 minutes after the war ends. After war, they start searching for the enemies within the borders.”
Wow, I was definitely not expecting such an answer! I couldn’t say a word, I was speechless. I just smiled and nodded. Then it struck me! We are too blind to see it: being in a war zone did affect them after all! It made them look at everybody as potential enemies!
But now i finally understood it. I understood why at first it was difficult to start a friendship with an Israeli. But I can tell you for sure that after they consider you a part of their close and safe world, they are your best friends.